Historical Event

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January 1, 1880





Short Description:

Eskimos ate almost entirely animal substances and never ate the half-digested contents of the reindeer, and would also eat about as much fat as civilized man.





Ethnological Results of the Point Barrow Expedition

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Facultative Carnivore
Carnivore Diet

Important Text:


 Of the sources available (including the formal report of the commander, Lieutenant Patrick Henry Ray), the best description of the people is the account by the anthropologist John Murdoch: “Ethnological Results of the Point Barrow Expedition,” published in the Ninth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution(Washington, D.C., 1892). 

In addition to agreeing generally with Simpson's dietetic observations of the 1850's, Murdoch amplifies in the 1880's:

“The food of these people consists almost entirely of animal substances ... We saw and heard nothing ... of eating the half-digested contents of the stomach of the reindeer ... As far as our observations go these people eat little, if any more fat than civilized man; and, as a rule, not by itself ... It is usually supposed, and generally stated in the popular accounts of the Eskimos, that it is a physical necessity for them to eat enormous quantities of blubber in order to obtain a sufficient amount of carbon to enable them to maintain their animal heat in the cold climate which they inhabit. A careful comparison, however, of the reports of actual observers shows that an excessive eating of fat is not the rule ...

“We saw these people eat no vegetable substances, though they informed us that the buds of the willow were sometimes eaten [especially in time of famine] ... Food is generally cooked ... Meat of all kinds is generally boiled ... and the broth thus made is drunk ... Fish are also boiled but are often eaten raw ... Meat is sometimes eaten raw frozen ... When living in winter houses they ... have no regular time for meals, but eat whenever hungry and have leisure. The women seem to keep a supply of cooked food on hand for anyone to eat ... They are large eaters, some of them, especially the women, eating all the time ...” Elsewhere Murdoch relates that during winter the Barrow women stirred around very little, did little heavy work, and yet “inclined more to being sparse than corpulent.”